Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

which once more disturbed Mr Ashburton's gravity. And yet, when a young woman who is not at all badlooking puts up a rustling, gleaming knot of ribbons to her hair and asks a man's opinion of the same, the man must be a philosopher or a wretch indeed who does not give a glance to see the effect. The candidate for Carlingford looked and approached, and even, in the temptation of the moment, took some of the long streamers in his hand. And he began to think Miss Marjoribanks was very clever, and the most amusing companion he had met with for a long time. And her interest in him touched his heart; and, after all, it is no drawback to a woman to be absurd by moments. His voice grew quite soft and caressing as he took the end of ribbon into his hand.

"If they are your colours they shall be mine," he said, with a sense of patronage and protection which was very delightful; and the two were still talking and laughing over the silken link thus formed between them, when the people came in whom Lucilla was expecting to lunch, and who were naturally full of Mr Chiltern's death, which, poor old man! was so sudden at the last. Mr Ashburton stayed, though he had not intended it, and made himself very pleasant. And Lucilla took no pains to conceal her opinion that the thing was neither to consider Whigs nor Tories, but a good Man. And Major Brown, who had come with his daughters, echoed this sentiment so warmly that Mr Ashburton was entirely convinced of the justice of Miss Marjoribanks's ideas. "We can't have a tip-topper, you know," Major Brown said, who was not very refined in his expressions; "and what I should like to see is a man that knows the place and would look after Carlingford. That's what we're all looking for." Mr Ashburton did not declare himself to Major Brown, but he dashed off his new address ten minutes after he had taken leave of Miss Marjoribanks, and put the other one in the fire like a Christian, and telegraphed for his agent to town Lucilla, for her part, made an effort equally great and uncompromising. She took the ribbon Mr Ashburton had played with, and cut it up into cockades of all descriptions. It was an early moment, but still there was no time to be lost in a matter of such importance. And she wore one on her breast and one in her hair when Mr Ashburton's address was published, and all the world was discussing the new candidate.

"Of course they are his colours—that is why I wear them," said Lucilla. "I shall always think there was something very strange in it. Just after I had heard of poor old Mr Chiltern's death, as I was passing Holden's—when I was not in the least thinking of him— he came into my mind like a flash of lightning, you know. If I had been very intimate with poor old Mr Chiltern, or if I believed in spirit-rapping, I should think that was it. He came into my head without my even thinking of him, all in a moment, with his very hat on and his umbrella, like Minerva—wasn't it Minerva?" said Miss Marjoribanks. And she took up Mr Ashburton's cause openly, and unfurled his standard, and did not even ask her father's opinion. "Papa knows about politics, but he has not had an intimation, as I have," said Lucilla. And, naturally, she threw all the you nger portion of Grange Lane, which was acquainted with Mr Ashburton, and looked forward eagerly to a little excitement, and liked the idea of wearing a violet-and-green cockade, into a flutter of excitement. Among these rash young people there were even a few individuals who took Lucilla's word for it, and knew that Mr Ashburton was very nice, and did not see that anything more was necessary. To be sure, these enthusiasts were chiefly women, and in no cases had votes; but Miss Marjoribanks, with instinctive correctness of judgment, decided that there were more things to be thought of than the electors. And she had the satisfaction of seeing with her own eyes and hearing with her own ears the success of that suggestion of her genius. Carlingford had rarely been more excited by any public event than it was by the address of the new candidate, who was in the field before anybody else, and who had the boldness to come before them without uttering any political creed. "The enlightened electors of Carlingford do not demand, like other less educated constituencies, a system of political doctrines cut and dry, or a representative bound to give up his own judgment, and act according to arbitrary promises," said the daring candidate: "what they want is an honest man, resolved to do his duty by his country, his borough, and his constituency; and it is this idea alone which has induced me to solicit your suffrages." This was what Mr Ashburton said in his address, though at that moment he had still his other address in his pocket, in which he had entered at some length into his distinctive personal views. It was thus that an independent candidate, unconnected with party, took the field in Carlingford, with Miss Marjoribanks, like another Joan of Arc, wearing a knot of ribbons, violet and green, in her hair, to inspire and lead him on.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.

Life with most people is little more than a succession of high and low tides. There are times when the stream runs low, and when there is nothing to be seen but the dull sandbanks, or even mudbanks, for months, or even years together; and then all at once the waters swell, and come rushing twice a-day like the sea, carrying life and movement with them. Miss Marjoribanks had been subject to the eaux mortes for a long time: but now the spring-tides had rushed back. A day or two after Mr Ashburton had been revealed to her as the predestined member, something occurred, not in itself exciting, but which was not without its ultimate weight upon the course of affairs. It was the day when aunt Jemima was expected in Grange Lane. She was aunt Jemima to Lucilla; but the Doctor called her Mrs John, and was never known to address her by any more familiar title. She was, as she herself described it, a widow lady, and wore the dress of her

« ForrigeFortsett »